Press Release

Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue to urge the Government to take immediate action to help keep families and individuals in their homes and stop a “mass homelessness crisis.”

Today (28th October) Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, is due to lead a debate in parliament asking for immediate action to be taken to prevent a mass homelessness crisis.

Big Issue founder Lord Bird. Image credit: Impact Hub/Flickr

Today (28th October) Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, is due to lead a debate in parliament asking for immediate action to be taken to prevent a mass homelessness crisis.

Lord Bird is expected to ask that the Government to take note of the combined impact of the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the reduction in Universal Credit, and the upcoming rise in fuel prices, on people’s ability to afford to stay in their homes. If action is not taken now it threatens to put many thousands of people at risk of losing their homes.

The crossbench peer will emphasise the danger these three events pose to everyday families and individuals across the United Kingdom – who will now be at risk of homelessness for the first time in their lives. The warning comes as part of The Big Issue’s wider campaign calling on the Government to Stop Mass Homelessness’.

To prevent an influx of newly homeless households, the campaign has three key asks of the Government:

  • Pay off the £360 million in rent arrears and provide additional support to help those unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to Covid-19
  • Put an end to no fault evictions
  • Provide jobs and training in sustainable industries

Over the course of the pandemic, £360 million in rent arrears were built up, which has affected 558,000 Universal Credit claimants and 431,820 households in the private rented sector. In addition to this, last week, research by Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that the situation is worsening – with 3.8 million low-income households being in some form of arrears (either rent or bills).

Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, said: “We must act now to support people to stay in their homes – otherwise they will slip into the costly and mentally damaging world of homelessness.

“I was pleased to hear the Government listened to our call to keep people in their homes with the provision of a £65 million support package for vulnerable renters. It is vital that they are taking preventative action to ensure people will not be left homeless this winter. The end of furlough and the lift of the eviction ban have posed a very grave danger to everyday families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of Covid-19 poverty.

“However, further action must be taken if we are to prevent a mass homelessness crisis. The cost of homelessness is estimated at £14,800 to a local authority over 1 year, and this does not take into account the physical damage that would do to the NHS, Social Services, schools and our streets. The cost of fully paying off rent arrears[1] is substantially less than the cost of letting someone slip into homelessness. So, that is why I am urging the Government today to take action and stop mass homelessness.”

To sign the petition, visit www.bigissue.com/stop-mass-homelessness.  


[1] Average £1,076 per household

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